Do you know what the ghost light is? Me neither, until I saw the press release for Bob Bradshaw’s latest album. It’s a single bulb left on after all of the other lights in a theatre are switched off. It might be superstition; it might be practical. Whatever the reason, it’s an appropriate metaphor for any album released in the grip of the pandemic; the album’s there and it shows that the creative juices are still flowing, but there’s no way to get out there and promote it in the theatres where the only sign of life is a single light shining.

The album’s built around a core of Bob Bradshaw’s electric band with remote contributions from the likes of Dave Brophy, Dave Westner and Zachariah Hickman and each of the eleven songs is a collaboration between Bob and at least one other writer. It might sound a little patchwork, but the unification comes from the quality of the songs and Bob’s honey-over-gravel voice at their centre. “The Ghost Light” occupies a territory somewhere between country and rock, with interesting little musical diversions like the Transylvanian tango of “Sideways”, which uses clashes of style and an element of discordancy to emphasise the story of a skewed and fascinating, but transient, relationship.

Bob Bradshaw isn’t a confessional singer-songwriter; his songs are generally separate and self-contained, each one building its own entirely believable world, although you can find themes linking the songs if you look closely enough (more on that later) and it’s not unusual to find a reference to well-known songs in the music or lyrics, which brings us quite neatly to the album’s opening song, “Songs on the Radio”, a full-band piece with keys and two electric guitars creating a lovely mid-tempo drive-time feel for a song that explores the nostalgia and memories that can be evoked by hearing a favourite song on the radio. There’s a reference in there to “Across the Universe” and a harmony guitar solo that’s more Wishbone Ash or Eagles than Thin Lizzy.

There are hints at the supernatural and mystical in the songs “Gone” and “Light of the Moon” (an everyday story of a ship lured off course by siren song) and there’s a strand of loss that runs through the album, particularly in a trilogy of songs as the centre of the album, “Blue”, “Come Back Baby” and “She’s Gone for Good” that chart the stages in the death of a relationship, from sadness through regret and finally acceptance. Redemption follows this trilogy in the shape of the foot-on-the-monitor rock ‘n’ roll of “21st Century Blues” with its apocalyptic environmental message, hinting at Jackson Browne’s “The Road and the Sky” (or is that just me?). The sense of loss and alienation extends into the brooding menace of “In the Dark” before the album closes with “Niagara Barrel Ride Blues”, a solo resonator-backed song that uses the barrel ride as an extreme metaphor for tackling life’s challenges; you have to expect a bumpy ride and you need a good team to support you.

As always, Bob Bradshaw has created an album packed with powerful, creative songs that seduce with their simplicity and hooks that just won’t let go. Its appeal is both instant and lasting and a testament to the songwriter’s craft.

“The Ghost Light” is released in the UK on Friday 30th April on Fluke Records (FR11).

Here’s the video for “Sideways”:

Authenticity’s something that’s often claimed but not always delivered. Not in this case; “Shadow Land” is a powerful and often disturbing collection of songs with a wide variety of themes. And the authenticity isn’t just in the lived experience of Ben de la Cour, although his life suffuses the songs. It’s also in the way the album was made; virtually all of it was recorded live. Brave, perhaps, but vibrant and raw when it’s done well. On “Shadow Land”, it’s done very, very well.

This isn’t a gentle, introspective album of reflective songs tinged with melancholy like Jackson Browne and James Taylor in the seventies. Their hell-raising generally didn’t make it directly into the songs (unless you count “Cocaine” on “Running on Empty”). With Ben de la Cour, it’s a different matter. It doesn’t matter how deep the barrel is, he’ll siphon out the most bitter dregs, then create potent songs from them. If you wanted a more current comparison, Ben has a lot in common with Michael McDermott both in the life lived and in the breadth of musical stylings they use to get the songs across.

“Shadow Land” moves effortlessly from the gentle triple-time pathos of another barely-mourned suicide in “Swan Dive” to the terrifying, hallucinatory “Harmless Indian Medicine Blues” sounding like a half-speed, minor key “Telegram Sam” played by Black Sabbath, with a side order of raw sax. And while we’re on the subject of terrifying, “Basin Lounge” is a full-on, full band romp through the story of a night in one of those bars that sensible people don’t visit, complete with cocaine references. It’s on the edge of falling apart at any time and conveys the stimulant headrush perfectly when the manic guitar solo kicks in.

The album isn’t just about the personal. There’s a smattering of murder ballads in there as well. The album opens with “God’s Only Son”, the tale of double-crossing bank robbers set to an Ennio Morricone-style arrangement, complete with whistling and mandolin while “Amazing Grace (Slight Return)” is a much more mellow take on a hushed-up murder in a small town. There’s also a takedown of corporate greed in the swamp-rock of “In God We Trust … All Others Pay Cash”, but the focus is mainly on the searingly honest depictions life in general and of the Janus faces of dependency and recovery in particular.

Two of the standouts in this vein are “The Last Chance Farm”, a gentle, bleak story of two characters meeting in rehab and the title song with its dystopic alienation and a perfect description of eternal damnation: ‘The Revolutionary Suicide Jazz Band plays all night long’. It certainly sounds a lot like Hell to me.

“Shadow Land” isn’t an easy listen; it’s not meant to be. It’s the product of a difficult life and Ben de la Cour doesn’t shy away from honest depiction of this life. The musical settings are perfect for the subject matter of the songs from the terrible clarity and Jack London references of “Valley of the Moon” to the raw rock and hedonism of “Basin Lounge”. You never know quite what’s coming next; it could be Townes Van Zandt, it could be Nick Cave. Whatever it is, it won’t be dull.

If you like your albums spiced with a murder ballad or two, a touch of the supernatural, terrifying stories of substance abuse, suicide, alienation, Armageddon and cross-dressing, then it’s your lucky day.

“Shadow Land” is released in the UK on Friday April 9th on Flour Sack Cape Records (FSCR-0010).

As a special treat, here’s the video clip for “Harmless Indian Medicine Blues”:

This interview was originally published in late 2019. Since then, we’ve all seen a few changes. We’ve given the site a bit of a spring clean and everyone and their sibling’s sharing archive material. We thought it would be a great opportunity to dust off some of our highlights and see how they’re looking (and sounding) now.

We’re kicking off with our first ever audio interview which we grabbed with Graham Parker before his gig at The Foxlowe Centre in Leek on a tour celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the release of his classic album “Squeezing Out Sparks”.

Allan McKay and Steve Jenner grabbed thirty minutes with Graham just after soundcheck and, as always, he was good value for his opinions and insights. The interview was edited for various local radio stations in the north-west but this is the full, uncut version. Just a warning, there’s one mild swear-word at about 9 minutes 15 seconds:

Allan and Steve meet Graham Parker

‘Learn something new every day’. Today’s was an absolute beauty; I discovered what a shuitar is. I won’t describe it because its creator, Jano Rix, does that in this piece of video:

Jano Rix is the co-writer for almost all of this album and plays percussion (including shuitar) and keyboards (including a bit of mellotron). However, the name on the sleeve, the voice (and what a voice it is) and the lived experience are very much Brigitte DeMeyer’s. There’s a little piece of pure invention here, but most of the songs are personal, whether that’s personal stories or personal viewpoints. The title’s appropriate, not just because of the song of that name but because there’s a strand of longing and melancholy running through its ten songs; longing for friends, longing for family, longing for truth and longing for familiar places.

But let’s start with the untypically humorous song because it links in neatly to the rest of the album. “Cat Man Do” has a loose jazz feel and a central character that could be the son (or grandson) of the Chuck E featured on Rickie Lee Jones’ first (and best-selling) single, “Chuck E’s in Love”. The song’s similar in style to the autobiographical “Ain’t No Mister” which also features a central character in the same mould as Chuck E; that’s jazzers for you. It’s difficult not to draw parallels between the vocal styles of Brigitte and Rickie Lee Jones; they can both sing with the delicacy of angels and produce a 4-packs-a-day growl when it’s needed.

The title song sounds like seventies Laurel Canyon, which is appropriate in a song about moving back to California and searching for truth, love and a friend or two. “Roots and Wings and Bones”, which follows “Seeker”, and closes the album, is a love song for Brigitte’s son, which might contain a little musical reference to “Bohemian Rhapsody” (or my imagination might be working overtime). The trilogy of very different love songs is completed by “Already In” for Brigitte’s husband and “Louisiana” (with a reference to the classic “Georgia On My Mind”) is about loving and missing New Orleans with an appropriate Big Easy arrangement and a few nods in the direction of Allen Toussaint.

It’s almost obligatory on an Americana album these days to have a political view or two; it’s a natural reaction to four turbulent years. The album’s laid-back opening song “All of the Blue” sings the praises of under-valued cowboys, while the bright honky-tonk of “Calamity Gone” skewers the politicians trying to claim spurious solidarity with working people. Yep, we know who they are and we have them in the UK as well; and I don’t see any swamps being drained on either side of the pond just yet.

“Seeker” is a fine piece of work. There’s plenty going on musically to keep the listener’s interest but it’s Brigitte’s highly personal lyrics that make the album a spiritual experience and privileged window into her life. And she also knows when to inject a bit of fun as well.

“Seeker” is released in the UK on Friday March 26th on BDM Records.

As a bonus, here’s a video shot for Bob Harris’s ‘Under the Apple Tree’ when Brigitte toured the UK with Will Kimbrough and Dean Owens in March 2017:

Update 02/03/21 – We’ve just discovered a video for the wonderful “Louisiana”:

The Guardian published an article a couple of weeks ago by Tim Burgess of The Charlatans about the state of the music business in the light of Brexit, streaming and downloads. It’s an interesting read as far as it goes and it set the cogs whirring about why we got here, where we go next and will it be better or worse, or just different.

In my lifetime, the music business has been turned upside down. In the seventies, bands went out on tour to build up a following and to promote singles and albums, which is where the real money was. If you’ve survived this long and remember all this, bear with me, it’s worth getting some historical context. No internet, no mobile phones, only three TV channels and (until October 1973) no commercial radio. So you were left with the pirates like Caroline and the erratic reception of overseas stations like Luxembourg to let you know about new music. And the music press…

Every week I bought the NME, Melody Maker and Sounds and my paper round meant I could sneak a look at Blues & Soul and Disc/Disc and Music Echo as well. By 1973, with a bar job and a Saturday job with an entertainment agent booking acts for local pubs and clubs, I had a few bob to spend on some of the music I was reading about. Add the cost of my print habit to the cost of buying an album (about five percent of the average weekly wage in the mid-seventies) and being into music was a real financial commitment (even if you took the risk of doing a few temporary swaps with your mates to dip into their choices).

Buying music in the seventies wasn’t just an investment in listening to a piece of music. You exchanged your hard-earned (cash of course) for something physical that you carried home in a bag before lowering it on to the turntable, gently caressing the vinyl with the stylus and waiting for a glorious noise to erupt from the speakers. But let’s just rewind that a few minutes. If you bought an album and you were taking public transport home, you had the chance to look at the album artwork as well. A good album sleeve was so much more than a bit of on-shelf advertising; a twelve-inch square format created opportunities for quality photography and graphic design to enhance the musical content of the package. When it worked, it was an extra visual dimension to a piece of aural art:

Dark Side of the Moon – Artwork by Hipgnosis

When it didn’t, it looked a lot like this (which proves that you can’t get it right all the time):

Tormato – Artwork by Hipgnosis

The gatefold sleeve doubled up the visual real estate (exploited perfectly on Thin Lizzy’s “Live and Dangerous” double album with a shedload of Chalkie Davies pics all over the outer and inner sleeves of the album):

Designers started to exploit die-cut sleeves and all sorts of interesting innovations; PiL’s “Metal Box” looked really clever, but only if you hadn’t seen The Small Faces’ “Nut Gone Flake” packaging twelve years earlier.

The visuals were only part of the album experience; you could get a lot of text on a sleeve, particularly if you had a printed inner sleeve or three as well. There was all the obvious geek stuff; musicians involved, instruments played (or not played if you were Queen) and lyric sheets, but some bands made a real effort; UB40’s cover for the first album “Signing Off” in 1980 was a copy of the unemployment benefit attendance card, they’d been filling in before they broke through. Ten years later, Squeeze released a live album with a boxing concept, “A Round and A Bout” with a little bonus – they listed every gig they’d done between 1974 and 1990 on an insert with the album. Thanks guys, you’ve no idea how useful that’s been to me over the years. Seriously.

I’m sure you get the message by now. During the first vinyl era, the experience was about much more than just listening to the music. You could carry an album around at school as a sign of your taste and discernment and to impress the other gender (I pitied the guys who carried Groundhogs and Genesis albums, but that’s Darwinism for you). It was a bit like creating a mixtape a few years later and a playlist many years later. Or drinking bottled designer lager in the eighties. If you were a fan of music in the seventies or eighties you were committed and attached to it; it had a financial and emotional value. And it had a longer lifespan; since the mid-nineties, the norm is for singles and albums to achieve their highest chart position in the first week of release, but fifty years ago the climb to the top of the charts could take weeks (and probably a few bulk purchases in chart return shops to help it along).

This isn’t a dewy-eyed, rose-tinted trip down memory lane. The seventies and eighties weren’t perfect; the music business was still a business, but it was one where labels invested in bands with a view to development over several years. A moderately successful band writing their own material could make a living for a few years with royalties on sales, radio, juke box and club plays and independent labels were few and far between. Things are a bit more polarised these days; the business only supports guaranteed winners and everyone else has to do their own thing. Time for a bit of a polemic: the technology that enabled the digital revolution degraded our experience of music. Listening to compressed audio on inadequate playback systems is the norm for most people now, despite the vinyl comeback, and the majority of listeners don’t pay any attention to artwork, credits or sleeve notes. We’ve walked blindfold into accepting a gradual erosion of the musical experience in the name of progress and fashion. We also have at least one generation that doesn’t believe in physical musical formats and certainly doesn’t believe in paying for them.

Fortunately the same digital technology that devalued music by making no-degradation copying possible, then compression, along with affordable storage and massive improvements in internet bandwidth, have enabled affordable home recording. Technological improvements cut both ways and musicians are a resourceful bunch; if you can’t get a deal with a major label, what have you lost? You don’t need access to a studio; you can set up at home. You don’t need access to a major label’s mastering and pressing facilities; you can find any number of those online. You don’t need a distribution network; you can load your music up to download and streaming services and make peanuts, or you can sell CDs and albums on your website by mail order and alongside other merchandise at your gigs.

In normal times, this isn’t a bad business model; you might be able to stay afloat if you have another job, have good merchandise to sell on tour, or both. And along comes lockdown; no gigs and no pop-up shop opportunities. I wish I could honestly say that I recommended live streams, but it’s not for me; I really miss the eye contact and (selfishly) I miss the opportunity to take pictures at gigs. If it works for you, that’s great; enjoy it and make a contribution; I’ll be waiting for the moment when live music re-emerges after this terrible disease is brought under control.

Me, I’ll continue to avoid the mainstream by buying (in order of preference) vinyl or CDs directly from artists’ websites, from independent record shops and at gigs. Two people I know have opened vinyl shops in the last few years and both are succeeding despite the current trading situation; long may they continue.

And that resourcefulness and creativity that musicians always demonstrate wasn’t going to be stifled by any number of lockdowns; no way. All of those skills developed and equipment bought to set up home studios have been subtly repurposed to enable musicians to collaborate by sharing audio and video files online. I don’t know any musicians who see this as an ideal situation, but, like solitaire, it’s the only game in town. After nearly a year and millions of audio files bouncing around the internet, albums that were in progress have been completed remotely and albums have been conceived, gestated and born. It doesn’t matter how difficult you make life for musicians (or artists generally), they will always find an outlet.

Whenever we reach the new normal, whatever that may be, spend your money in a way that benefits the people making the music you love. Buy physical copies of music either directly from bands or from independent record stores – there are loads of them. Most importantly, get yourself out to as many gigs as possible. I’ll see you at the front.

Where do I start with this one? Five stars would be a good place, I suppose. It’s not even five stars that needs a lot of thought. It’s not an album that needs to grow on you; it’s all there instantly first time around. David Olney already has a fabulous legacy, but this is a pretty impressive final piece in the jigsaw. If you absolutely must have a label for it, you would probably go with Americana but there’s a spectacular range of influences and references here, pushing the boundaries in all directions to create a rich and incredibly satisfying album.  The album’s credited to David & Anana Kaye (his protégés, for want of a better word), it’s a trio effort with writing and playing credits going to David, Anana, and her partner, Irakli Gabriel. To stretch the Americana boundaries a little further, Anana and Irakli are from Georgia, the one that Paul McCartney sung about, rather than Ray Charles.

Maybe it’s hindsight, with the knowledge of David Olney’s death last year, but ”Whispers and Sighs” has valedictory undertones, particularly the album’s closing song, “The Great Manzini (Disappearing Act)”, looking at life through the eyes of a worn-out and weary entertainer. It sounds resigned and laconic rather than cynical because of the warmth of David Olney’s smooth baritone delivery, the layered a cappella Anana Kaye intro, and the bowed cello and pizzicato violins. It’s the perfect end to the album.

The ideas and influences (musical and lyrical) are varied and you can expect a surprise around every corner, whether it’s the melancholy string fragments that open and bisect the album, “The Station” (Prelude)” and “Sideview (Interlude)”, the layered Anana Kaye celestial choirs or Rolling Stones-influenced dystopian rocker “Last Days of Rome” kicking in like “Start Me Up” and morphing into “Sticky Fingers” era Stones with Bobby Keys-style sax, a raw David Olney vocal and lyrics that obliquely reference the Trump administration.

And that’s just the start, before we get into the Shakespeare references. The title song is influenced by “Romeo and Juliet” and features Anana’s layered choral vocals and a string quartet, while the busy and angry uptempo “Lie to Me Angel” ends with David declaiming King Lear’s ‘blasted heath’ speech to end the piece as the manic backing fades out. Coming straight out of “Lie to Me Angel”, almost without a gap, is “Thank You Note”. It’s a song with a sinister feel, a tango overlaid with Eastern European strings and lyrics hinting at supernatural histories. You could imagine this song soundtracking a vampire movie.

“Whispers and Sighs” is a classic album, seamlessly pulling together a huge variety of musical references to create a work that surprises at every musical turn and is packed with subtle and thought-provoking lyrics that encourage the listener to think, rather than hammering a message home. As well as the classic country themes of longing and regret, you’ll find anger, mystery and history in my favourite album of the year so far.

This album is a fitting memory to David Olney as the flame passes on to Anana and Irakli.

“Whispers and Sighs” is released in the UK on Friday March 19th on Schoolkids Records (SMR-067).

Here’s a sneak preview with the video of “My Favourite Goodbye”:

We’ve all been reminded over the last year that music is a social phenomenon. Musicians love to work together, in the same room, face to face. Most of them love to interact with audiences in the same way, up close and personal and we’ve missed out on that over the last ten months in the UK. But life goes on and we adapt; the conditions aren’t ideal but musicians are collaborating online and still producing great albums and singles. Rick Shea’s twelfth album “Love & Desperation” is one of those collaborations, started under fairly normal conditions in 2019 and completed under COVID conditions in 2020.

The playing throughout is subtle and understated; the album relies more on subtlety and nuance than technical wizardry for its impact (that and a tidy selection of songs across a range of styles, with a few little surprises thrown in) and some interesting song pairings across the album. The fact that Rick has a voice that bears comparison with Merle Haggard might also help a bit. There’s also a suggestion that, after forty years as a musician, Rick might be thinking about his legacy; there’s a hint of that with the inclusion of the moody and atmospheric Mexican noir story “Texas Lawyer”, which closes the album, which appears for the third time on one of Rick’s albums.

So, how about those pairs of songs? Well, “(Down at the Bar at) Gypsy Sally’s” (taking its title from Townes Van Zandt’s “Tecumseh Valley”) and “She Sang of the Earth” look at different diversions, one physical, the other spiritual, but equally temporary. The arrangements echo the themes for each song with a gentle country feel for “She Sang of the Earth” and a more sinister guitar and accordion-led styling for “Gipsy Sally’s”, which instantly evokes the Doors’ “People Are Strange”; and that’s appropriate given the list of characters that populate the song.

“Gipsy Sally’s” neatly ties in with “The World’s Gone Crazy”, tying in the Doors instrumental style to the lyrical style and structure of a gospel song; it’s another example of the album’s eclecticism, from the standard slow blues of “Blues at Midnight” to the mariachi polka of “Juanita (Why Are You So Mean?)”. The musical variety of the songs is matched by the range of lyrical themes from the album. There’s the love song “A Tenderhearted Love”, which Rick felt he owed his wife, the references to the harshness of Nashville in the title song “Nashville Blues”, and the environmental and social concerns of ”Big Rain is Comin’ Mama”.

There’s plenty of love running through this album; love for music, love for family and love for the world and, honestly, very little desperation. If this is Rick Shea’s shot at a career-defining album, then it might just have done the trick.

“Love & Desperation” is released in the UK on Friday February 12th on Tres Pescadores Records (TPCD-12).

Here’s the video for “The World’s Gone Crazy”:

Time for another single, this time from the London-based acoustic folk duo Copper Viper, which is Robin Joel Sangster (vocals and guitar) and Duncan Menzies (vocals, bouzouki and violin), except it isn’t this time because the duo’s a quartet for this release, and they sound very different. The two additional personnel are Issy Ferris (backing vocals) and Archie Sylvester (backing vocals, drums, bass and electric guitar). That’s Ferris and Sylvester, of course, known for their dynamic live performances and Archie’s also the producer for this single.

So this is Copper Viper, Jim, but not as we know it. “Opal and the Bear” opens with an atmospheric, Ennio Morricone-tinged intro, leading in to a first verse that could almost be Copper Viper au naturelle. The first chorus gradually builds to a second verse with the full band and a second chorus with the addition of electric guitar as well. There’s an acoustic solo that’s part Morricone/part Django Rheinhardt before a breakdown into an almost a cappella chorus and a final build-up before an acoustic guitar outro.

This single is dynamic and anthemic and it’s a perfect example of a seemingly unlikely collaboration creating a truly original piece of work.

“Opal and the Bear” is released on Friday January 29th on Under the Bower Records to download and stream.

The opening line of the press release for “Little Thunderstorms” introduces KB Bayley succinctly: ‘Guitar player, songwriter, composer. Lover of wood, steel, valves and song.’ It’s good as far as it goes but it’s far too modest; there are a few superlatives missing in the first sentence for a start. KB’s a stunningly good player who knows what to play (and what not to play) to accompany his vocal. There’s quite a list of musicians playing on the album, but none of the arrangements feel cluttered as the players are used sparingly to create moods and atmospheres, such as the melancholy pedal steel on “Throw It in the River” and the muted trumpet three-in-the-morning jazz club feel of “Night Dogs”.

The songwriting’s powerful and personal and it’s obvious that KB has a keen interest in the art of the song and great writers. “Night Dogs” in name and arrangement is a nod in the direction of Tom Waits, while the album’s opening song “Cold Rain” turns around Leonard Cohen’s line from “Anthem” to ‘someone said there’s a hole in the sky where the night gets in’. Despite KB’s reputation as a session guitar player, the songs aren’t dominated by guitar gymnastics; they’re individual works of art where the words, melody and instrumental backing work together to evoke strong feelings and sometimes painful memories.

Blood Red Lullaby” aside, with its initial setting in Dallas and JFK reference, “Little Thunderstorms” is a very British album, packed with references to the north-east of England, where KB grew up, and the south coast where he now lives. The sea and the shore are the constants that will always pull us back regardless of how far we leave them behind, and the little thunderstorms are the things that happen to us between leaving and finding our way home again.

Almost inevitably for a touring musician, there are a couple of road songs, the laid-back jazz of “Night Dogs” telling the ‘same hotel, different town’ story, while “Time to Leave Town” is the ‘same partner, different town’ story. Of the album’s eleven songs, there are nine originals plus Jeffrey Foucault’s “Cheap Suit” (a beautiful song about the persistence of a dream that hints at passing the dream to the next generation) and a slide resonator version of the traditional “Wayfaring Stranger (Redux)” that has echoes of Mark Knopfler’s acoustic work – maybe it’s a Geordie thing.

“Little Thunderstorms” straddles the world of the seventies folk singer-songwriters (post-Judas era Dylan when you could use more than an acoustic) and the grittier sound of modern Americana where any mix of styles and instruments is acceptable, and encouraged. The songs are a potent mix of memories where the melancholy outweighs the happy and the vocal is just the right side of raw to pull out the emotion in each one. If that’s your thing (it’s certainly one of mine) then this is the perfect way to start 2021.

If you want a quote to sum up the quality of the writing and the album’s message, how about this: “someone wrote a sign saying ‘jesus lives today’, I look around, I think he moved away” from “Throw It In the River” (check out the video below as well).

“Little Thunderstorms” is released on Friday February 5th on CD, LP and download and streaming services.

We first reviewed one of Anna Laube’s albums in 2015. She’s grown since then; since her 2016 album “Tree”, she’s now Anna Elizabeth Laube and her latest album, “Annamania” is a compilation of songs from her four previous albums dating back to “Outta My Head” in 2006. The song choice is heavily skewed towards the newer material from “Anna Laube” (2015) and “Tree” (2016) and also includes three songs previously either not released or given a limited release, including Anna’s reimagining of Tom Petty’s “Time to Move On”. Apart from this, it’s originals all the way.

The Tom Petty cover is a great example of making a song your own. Tom Petty’s original sounds like, well, Tom Petty, but Anna gives it a different spin, creating a piano arrangement with a Rickie Lee Jones twist and adding French horn tracks for an even more distinctive feel. It’s perfect.

The album has the variety and pacing that you would find on any of the previous four albums as Anna demonstrates her instrumental versatility and ability to move effortlessly from a pure, unadorned vocal (as on the album’s opener “Sweet Boy from Minnesota”) to the rasping, lo-fi twelve-bar blues of “If You Build It”.

“Annamania” is a perfect showcase for Anna’s work. It demonstrates her multi-instrumentalism, her perfect voice and her ability to create memorable songs across a wide range of subjects, from the innocent love song that opens the album to the environmental message of its closer, “Tree”. Her geographical and musical wanderings have all contributed to the eclecticism of this and Anna’s four previous albums. There are hints of Rickie Lee Jones in the Tom Petty reworking and also in “Oh My! (Oh Me Oh Me Oh My)” a mid-tempo shuffle that evokes Rickie Lee’s “Danny’s All-Star Joint” from the eponymous first album. The achingly beautiful “Please Let it Rain in California Tonight” even has a nod in the direction of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” in the chords leading into the verse. There’s a lot to love about this album.

If you haven’t listened to any of Anna’s previous albums, “Annamania” is a pretty good place to start. The songs are strong and the album clearly shows Anna’s variety of vocal stylings, multi-instrumental skills and studio expertise. Anna Elizabeth Laube is a unique talent and “Annamania” is a perfect introduction.

“Annamania” is released to download and stream on Friday January 22nd.